Laurel man arrested in Cochran photo flap a WC native

Published 2:44 pm Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rick Sager, left, in 1995, and Sager in 2014.

Rick Sager, left, in 1995, and Sager in 2014.

The family of a Vicksburg native arrested in Madison last week in what police said was a conspiracy to take unauthorized photos of the wife of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran in her nursing home room isn’t commenting on his arrest.

Richard Sager, 37, of Laurel, was arrested Thursday by Madison police and charged with one count each of evidence tampering and conspiracy. He was held in Madison County Jail on $500,000 bond, or $250,000 for each charge. Conservative blogger Clayton Kelly and Ridgeland attorney Mark Mayfield were charged with felonies in the incident, in which investigators said Kelly photographed 72-year-old Rose Cochran at St. Catherine’s Village nursing home, where the senator’s wife has lived for 13 years.

Kelly, 28, of Pearl, is a supporter of Cochran’s GOP primary opponent, state Sen. Chris McDaniel, faces felony charges of photographing or filming another person without permission where there is an expectation of privacy and exploitation of a vulnerable adult. The charges carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

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Mayfield, a Central Mississippi Tea Party board member who has raised money for McDaniel, is charged with conspiracy and held on $250,000 bond. A fourth person, John Mary, of Hattiesburg, was charged Thursday with conspiracy but won’t be kept in custody due to a medical condition.

Sager, a physical education teacher at Mason Elementary School and assistant boys soccer coach at Laurel High School, graduated from Warren Central High School in 1995.

“The family is not commenting on anything,” said his father, Richard Sager Jr., when reached Tuesday at his Warren County home.

The photo incident has created turmoil during the final two weeks of a campaign in which the tea party-backed McDaniel is trying to defeat a former Senate Appropriations Committee chairman who’s been in Washington more than 40 years. The primary is Tuesday.

Sager’s Facebook account shows Mississippi Patriots, Mississippians for a McDaniel-Cochran Debate and Jones County Republicans among groups followed.

Madison police investigator Vickie Currie said in city court Thursday that when Kelly photographed Rose Cochran on Easter Sunday, it was his third attempt to do so. Kelly told investigators that he photographed her through a door that opened to a hallway, his attorney, Kevin Camp, told The Associated Press.

The Cochran family says Rose Cochran has lost the ability to speak and is receiving hospice care.

The winner of the Cochran-McDaniel primary faces the winner of the Democratic primary, which features former congressman Travis Childers, former tea party candidate-turned Democrat Bill Marcy, of Vicksburg, perennial candidate William Compton and Jonathan Rawl, of Oxford.

Staff writer John Surratt and The Associated Press contributed to this report.